The ADKAR Model

The ADKAR model was developed by Jeffery Hiatt (founder of the PROSCI organisation in the USA) and is an acronym for the 5 key elements (goals) of change that we all go through as individuals. The ADKAR model can be used to effectively plan out change both for individuals and organisations by delivering against the 5 goals/elements

  1. Awareness (of the need to change)
  2. Desire (to engage & participate in and actively support the change)
  3. Knowledge (on how and what to change)
  4. Ability (to adopt/develop the required behaviours and skills successfully)
  5. Reinforcement (to sustain the change and resist return to old ways)

It is a bottom-up approach which focuses on employees but be careful as it does assume your strategy and the macro plan for your overall change is looked after elsewhere. These 5 elements are not fully sequential – you will need to revisit somewhat as you progress and elements can be started before previous others are complete.

By putting the focus on employees, the ADKAR method is effective at limiting the level of resistance and thus can lead to quicker implementation.

Be mindful that too much change all at once can be jarring and lead to resistance that wouldn’t be there if it was gradual. So, if your change requires employees to learn a large amount of new material and/or master new skills, consider implementing the change gradually.

While it’s suited to incremental change, ADKAR is not so suited to large-scale change. This is largely down to the design of ADKAR being bottom-up, and therefore all macro management is taken for granted. Simply put, ADKAR requires you to know what you’re going to change and have the drive to push for it and have overall management processes in place to do this.

ADKAR is GOOD at providing a flexible framework which you can go on to apply to almost any situation. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a one and done process – you will iterate and you will need to repeat cycles for different changes. Due to it’s flexibility it’s useful for deploying incremental changes, as they tend to be less disruptive, and can be planned in cycles/phases to achieve a big change over several ADKAR cycles rather than one big change.

AWARENESS is answering the “Why?” question for people involved. Why is this change happening and why am I impacted. So this stage is about making sure that all your employees understand the need for change and how the proposed change will improve the situation.

Please avoid making the mistake of just focusing on the advantages for the company, remember change is personal!

Do not just list off changes – explain the changes clearly giving the “From” and the “To” with clear rationale for each change. This will give you the best chance of landing the messages as well as being sure you don’t overstep by promises of everything being wonderful and smelling of apple blossom and sea air in the future with nothing to back it up.

DESIRE is tapping into the motivational WIIFM side of change – Why should I care or What’s In It For Me?

Your aim here is to tap into both the logical and the emotional parts of the person you are dealing with as the combination of “Head” and “Heart” will enable change at a greater pace and with more chance of success. Delivery of messages in an authentic trustworthy open manner will assist greatly here. Tell vivid stories of the future and who it will be and the steps that will be taken to make that dream a reality. Make it personal for people and give them evidence to believe in.

While you are fostering this desire, you will no doubt experience resistance to your change as minor or indeed major obstacle(s). This resistance is to be expected, but don’t just accept or ignore it , you need to understand the core, underlying reason for it. Are people scared that they don’t have the skills to make the change? Is that they are worried about how it will affect their job or their working hours ? Are they frustrated by the change in location, by the lack of transport options or is it as simple as they like the team seating arrangements where they are? Don’t just accept the initial spoken answer, it often runs deeper than that so look out for the explicit and the implicit reasons.

Once you understand the fundamental root cause of the resistance, you need to address it head-on and make adjustments to your change implementation plan if required.

KNOWLEDGE is first and foremost about education and then training. In order to make the change, employees need to understand how their responsibilities, processes, skills, technologies, ways of working, etc will all be impacted. Take time to assess the additional skills, tools, and duties the change will require. Ensure you plan the change schedule around the necessary skill development and allow for variations between people.

It is where you need to be clear that everyone knows

  1. How the change will be carried out and how they will participate in the process – in detail and step by step
  2. What the future looks and feels like in general and in their specific area
  3. What their role is in the future and why
  4. Any constraints for what is required in the future – minimum entry criteria / skills etc.

ABILITY– if you think it seems odd to have both knowledge and ability as 2 separate elements, then I ask you consider why we do through these 2 simple queries:

  • You know all the rules and how to play your chosen top level sport (knowledge) so why aren’t you great at it (ability) ?
  • I know how people sing (knowledge) but I can’t hold a note (ability)!

So this element focuses on how employees can do their job differently and correctly post change. It will ensure that they know what support / training / coaching / etc will be available and how to access it. Detailed assessments leading to needs requirements will possibly be needed for each individual and an appropriate intervention/solution activated for each need identified.

Having confidence in their own skills and competencies is critical to determining whether or not employees can or even will try do something, regardless of how well they know how to do something.

REINFORCEMENT is essential to proactively and intentionally ensure that old behaviours, processes, ways of working or culture don’t creep back in as the tendency is for things to return to the way it was around here once the focus eases off.

You could consider implementing a change to your reward and recognition framework (incentives and rewards) to ensure that the change is maintained and sustained until it becomes the new norm. Remember that it is not all about money!

Do not become complacent about the change at this point as you need to be on the look out for process issues now so that you can correct them before they become embedded.

Essentially, you are driving to a Continuous Improvement Mindset with your actions and behaviours and this also instils an awareness, understanding and acceptance that:

  1. not everything will be perfect in a change and there’s more to be done afterwards.
  2. change can happen incrementally not all at once – so we don’t have to wait for the single perfect answer before we can make improvements

In summary …

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